I can't remember when I first discovered the combination of fresh peas, lots of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and toasted pine nuts. But I definitely have to credit my youngest sister with my obsession. She would mix the three ingredients together, often when leftover from dinner preparations, and eating them out of a big bowl with a spoon. The sweet peas with the creamy pine nuts, paired with the salty feathers of grated cheese? Heavenly.
While it took me a couple of years of simply enjoying the combination until I began to crave it come spring, I’m now a convert. However, my favorite combination has two added ingredients — fresh basil pesto — and sometimes cooked pasta, taking this from a post-school or work snack to nearly a complete meal.
I love to make a big batch of this pasta salad on the weekends to have for a nutritious dinner during the week. It's also a great dish to make and pack for a summer picnic. I find the flavors are best when I use fresh spring peas and basil from the farmers market.
2 cups pasta, such as fusilli or gobbetti (I like to use whole wheat pasta for a nuttier flavor)
2 cups peas, preferably fresh sugar snap peas (you can also use frozen peas)
½ cup Basil Pesto
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for garnish
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted, plus more for garnish
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season well (until salty like seawater). Add the pasta and cook as instructed on the package.
Meanwhile, trim the peas to remove the strings.
In a separate bowl, combine the pesto and cheese. Add the cooked and drained pasta, but reserve the pasta water.
Bring the pasta water to a boil again. Add the peas and cook until brightly green and just barely tender. Drain and quickly shock in ice water. Cut each pea into thirds and add to pasta. Toss to combine. Serve in a bowl garnished with more Parmigiano and pine nuts, if you wish.
Serves 4 as a side, 2 as an entrée